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Headword: Αἴτιον
Adler number: alphaiota,370
Translated headword: cause
Vetting Status: high
Translation:
"The causes [are spoken of] in four ways:[1] as matter, as form, as end, as maker."[2] And of the causes some [are] antecedent,[3] others auxiliary or cooperative,[4] others (?)complete.[5]
Greek Original:
Αἴτιον: ὅτι τετραχῶς τὰ αἴτια: ὡς ὕλη, ὡς εἶδος, ὡς τέλος, ὡς ποιητικόν. καὶ τῶν αἰτίων τὰ μὲν προκαταρκτικά, τὰ δὲ συνεργὰ ἢ συναίτια, τὰ δὲ τελικά.
Notes:
For the first sentence here cf. John Philoponus, Commentaries on Aristotle's de anima 273.8-9 Hayduck.
[1] Aristotle distinguished four kinds of causes or explanations (Posterior Analytics 94a21-3; Physics 194b24-33 = Metaphysics 1013a24-33; Metaphysics 983a27-32; On the generation of animals 715a4-7). The four named here correspond to his, but do not indicate the exact names he used in describing the four kinds of cause.
[2] Or "what is productive of what is produced" (see Aristotle, Physics 194b31). Consider a typical example, the causes of a house: bricks and planks (matter); the layout or blueprint (form); sheltering goods and people (end); the architect and builders (maker). The subsequent distinctions are not Aristotelian; they are probably Stoic (see Hankinson, p. 245f.).
[3] Antecedent causes precede in time their effects; the removal of an antecedent cause does not remove the effect. The distinction has major significance in Hellenistic (especially Stoic) discussions of fate and determinism. See Hankinson, pp. 244-247. Galen wrote a treatise On Antecedent Causes. On Stoic forms of causality see M. Frede (1980), 217-249.
[4] Auxiliary causes contribute to an effect, but do not bring it about on their own. Sextus Empiricus gives as an example the case of two men lifting a heavy weight with difficulty, and so a third (an auxiliary cause) lightens it (PH 3.15).
[5] Sextus Empiricus (PH 3.15) gives a different threefold division: συνεκτικά (immediate or containing), συναίτια (cooperative or associate), and συνεργά (auxiliary). The present term τελικά may refer to the first of these, i.e. the immediate or containing cause. Alternatively it might refer to the "perfect" (perfectae) kind of cause also mentioned by Cicero, On Fate 41, in connection with "principal" causes in opposition to auxiliary causes.
References:
M. Frede, "The Original Notion of Cause", in M. Schofield, M. Burnyeat, J. Barnes (eds.), Doubt and Dogmatism. Studies in Hellenistic Epistemology. Oxford, 1980, 217-249
R.J. Hankinson. Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought. Oxford, 1998
Keywords: definition; philosophy; science and technology
Translated by: Monte Johnson on 8 October 2002@16:32:18.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (added note) on 9 October 2002@03:17:21.
Marcelo Boeri (Expanded note and bibliography. Set status.) on 11 October 2002@19:17:15.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 23 November 2005@03:38:04.
Catharine Roth (cosmeticule) on 23 November 2005@12:00:21.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 17 May 2012@08:17:29.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics, coding) on 28 May 2012@23:58:43.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 1 December 2015@06:22:30.

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